John Rando directs staged reading (and singing) of “The Suicide: A Musical Comedy” at Barrington Stage

It’s slipping into Pittsfield quietly, for just two staged readings, but John Rando’s latest musical project is going for a test drive Sunday and Monday, August 26-27 at 7pm. Location is the popular St. Germain Stage (formerly Stage 2) at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden Street, Pittsfield. Tickets are $15 (reserved seating).

John Rando Photo by Aubrey Reuben

I suspect many spots will be scooped up by New York cognoscenti anxious to see what this marvelous director is up to. It had an earlier test drive at the Musical Monday’s Theatre Lab in NYC this past February. The musical is going through a lot of quiet tinkering as its subject matter is just as unusual as Rando’s earlier show, Urinetown for which he won a Tony.

The Suicide, which is described as “a wacky original musical comedy set in Stalin’s brutal Soviet Union,” features music by Simon Gray, lyrics by Raymond Bokhour and book by David Bridel. It is adapted from the play by Nikolai Erdman, banned personally by Stalin.

It tells the story of Semyon Semyonovich Podsekalnikov, chronic loser, whose rash decision to commit suicide becomes the talk of the town in Stalin’s oppressive Moscow in the late 1920’s. Developed at the Tony-honored BMI Musical Theatre Workshop (where it received a raucous reception) presented here as part of the Barrington Stage Reading Series.

But things don’t go quite as planned. While the unemployed grumbler becomes convinced that suicide is his ticket to fame and glory, that is not to be. Before long, friends and neighbors are plotting to exploit his impending death for fun and profit, and while they’re at it, topple an entire regime.”

The story is based on a farce written by Nikolai Erdman in 1928. Stalin hated it, banned it, and sent its author to a Siberian labor camp for twenty years.

Critically acclaimed playwright David Bridel creates a timely adaptation of this black comedy that crackles with wit and snowballing insanity. The score by Gray and Bokhour is potent and exciting, filled with one killer song after another.

 

The Suicide features Christine Bokhour (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Masha, Tom Hewitt (Jesus Christ, Superstar/Chicago) as Aristarch, Jackie Hoffman (The Addams Family/Hairspray) as Serafima, Michael Thomas Holmes(BSC’s Guys and  Dolls) as Semyon, James Ludwig (Spamalot) as Burkin/Dream Stalin, Max Perlman (Pugachov), Lyn Philistine (A Christmas Story, the Musical) as Cleopatra, Zachary Prince (On A Clear Day You Can See Forever) as Victor, and Gordon Stanley (BSC’s Guys and Dolls) as Fedya/Elpidi.  Fred Lassen (Broadway’s South Pacific and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) is music director.  Christopher Donovan is stage manager.

 

David Bridel (Book) David is a playwright, director, choreographer, actor and educator. David’s work has been seen at the Mark Taper Forum, Ford Amphitheatre, Broad Stage, TEDxUSC and LA Theatre Ensemble in Los Angeles; Shakespeare & Company in MA; the Roy Hart Theatre in Malerargues, France; in opera houses in Los Angeles, Paris, Vienna, Munich, Mexico City, Guanuajato and Santiago; on screen (PBS Great Performances and Dancing With The Stars); and at festivals and theatres in the USA, UK, Israel, China, Hong Kong and Brazil.
Simon Gray (Music) wrote music for Daisy in Disguise (Vital Theatre) and contributed original songs for Everything About A Famliy (Almost) (TADA!), Dick Whittington (Eye Theatre, Suffolk, UK), Peter Pan (Horsham Arts, UK), 2Gether (Six Figures’ Artists of Tomorrow), On War (Young Vic). As music director, he worked on the first UK productions of Bill Russell’s Pageant (West End, London), Michael John LaChiusa’s Lucky Nurse (Finborough), Adam Guettel’s Myths and Hymns (Edinburgh Fringe) and Bless The Bride directed by Martin Charnin (King’s Head). Piano/keyboards, UK: Hello Again (Bridewell), Jesus Christ Superstar (UK tour), Wonderful Town (Grange Park Opera). BMI Harrington Award-winner.
Raymond Bokhour (Lyrics) has appeared on Broadway as Mr. Cellophane in Chicago (Helen Hayes nom) and regionally as Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Studio, DC); Kemp in Vigil (Geva); and the title role in Rameau’s Nephew (Portland Stage). Also a composer with music recorded by the London Symphony and Warsaw Philharmonic orchestras. His plays Fly South and American Mouth received productions in New York, Boston and Edinburgh. Ray is a 2008 recipient of BMI’s Harrington Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement.
John Rando (Director) At BSC: Guys and Dolls. John is the Tony Award and Outer Critic’s Circle Award-winning director of Urinetown, The Musical. Other Broadway credits include: The Wedding Singer, A Thousand Clowns, and Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party. With City Center Encores!, he directed On the Town, Damn Yankees, Face the Music, Of Thee I Sing, Pajama Game, Do Re Mi, and Strike Up The Band. His many Off-Broadway credits include the 2009 Outer Critic’s Circle Award Best Musical: The Toxic Avenger. He has extensive regional credits including The Guardsman at The Berkshire Theatre Festival and A Flea in her Ear at Williamstown Theatre Festival.
The Musical Theatre Lab is sponsored in part by Elayne Bernstein and Sol Schwartz.
About Barrington Stage Company
B
arrington Stage Company, a professional award-winning Equity regional theatre located in the heart of the Berkshires, in Pittsfield, MA, was co-founded in 1995 by Artistic Director Julianne Boyd. Barrington Stage’s mission is three-fold: to present top-notch, compelling work; to develop new plays and musicals; and to find fresh, bold ways to bringing new audiences into the theatre—especially young people. Barrington Stage garnered national attention in 2004 when it workshopped, and premiered William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin’s musical hit The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which later transferred to Broadway where it won two Tony Awards and played more than 1,000 performances. In 2009/2010 Barrington Stage produced the world premiere of Mark St. Germain’s Freud’s Last Session, which later moved Off-Broadway and played 775 performances. Barrington Stage was voted “Best Live Theatre” by The Berkshire Eaglereaders in 2011 and 2012 and was named “Best Theatre Company” in Metroland’s Best of the Capital Region 2009-2012.

 

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